1856 December 28

Woodrow Wilson is Born: As President Suppresses Free Speech, Segregates Federal Agencies


Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the U.S., is generally ranked by historians as one of the “near great” presidents in American history. His reputation is based largely on the many domestic reform laws passed during his first term in office. His record on civil liberties, however, was one of the worst among all presidents. His administration suppressed dissent during World War I (see November 2, 1917, June 16, 1918) and imposed racial segregation in federal agencies, beginning on April 11, 1913. Wilson also opposed a constitutional amendment to grant women the right to vote until 1918, when it became politically expedient to support it. His one great contribution to civil liberties was to appoint Louis Brandeis to the Supreme Court, which he did on January 29, 1916.

Read: John Milton Cooper, Woodrow Wilson: A Biography (2009)

Learn about Wilson’s civil liberties record: Samuel Walker, Presidents and Civil Liberties From Wilson to Obama (2012)

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